The cover letter, in my opinion, is as important as your resume, if not more. Students tend to downplay the cover letter, but believe me, a powerful cover letter can propel you to land numerous interviews. What make a powerful cover letter? I am glad you asked!
Make your prospective workplace want you by talking like “one of them”
Simply put, you want your cover letter to make the company you are applying to want you. The easiest way to do this is by using words that makes it seem like you already work there. What I used to do when applying to firms was that I used key words and phrases to make it seem like I did more than just online research about the organization I was applying to. I strongly recommend that you speak to any contacts you have within the firms you are applying to get an inside scoop of what the firm is all about and any keywords that employees use at the firm to help make you stand out! With their permission, it is also a smart idea to mention their names in your cover letter as this shows that you already have a personal network within the firm!
What are some keywords and phrases that you can potentially include in your cover letter when applying to PwC? Flexbility, work-life balance, non-specialization, PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada Foundation, “teach don’t tell,etc. These are just a few. There is no point just listing these down in your cover letter unless you understand the true meaning behind them and how it ties in with you so that you can exercise the words/phrases on your cover letter!
Address the organization’s needs, wants and desires
An elaborate and illustrative job description is going to be your best friend in any job application. If you have checked out any of PwC’s latest postings on the Brilliant Futures website for positions in Audit, Tax and/or Consulting, you may have noticed that the words used are unique and inviting. Not only does it mention what you may be doing at the firm, but it also goes over on a very high-level as to what the firm values. Use this information in your cover letter by tying it back to your personal experiences and how your values and the firm’s values align.
Every great novel has an impeccable theme
If you want your cover letter to be an interesting read, make sure it has a unique theme. I usually like to tie the theme of my cover letter to an organization’s core values. For example, PwC’s core values are teamwork, leadership and excellence. Why not discuss these three topics in your cover letter to further demonstrate why PwC is the right fit for you?
Writing a strong cover letter is like playing a tricky game
A common mistake students make in their cover letters is making it sound like a wordier version of their resumes. Your cover letter is not your resume. Think of it like a table of contents. You want to captivate the reader’s attention by highlighting key areas of interest in your resume that is unique to you and the firm.
If you are absolutely confused as to how to start writing a cover letter, use the following approach. Think of writing the cover letter as a game. There are two main players: you and the recruiter reading your application. The aim of this game is that you have to try to answer the million dollar question that the recruiter has in his/her mind: “What is in it for me/the firm?” If you can demonstrate, via your cover letter, how the firm will benefit from hiring you in the long-run, you are well on your way to winning the game!
Reading an applicant’s resume can be smooth sailing for the recruiter, or it can be his/her worst nightmare. The best resumes are those that are easy to follow and organized. You want to do the hiring manager a favour by ensuring that your resume is formatted correctly (clean headings, right and left justified, etc.). Similar to laws of attraction between humans, the best looking resumes are a catch in the recruiter’s eyes! Let me help you get the hiring manager to notice your resume.
Shine like a “STAR”
You have probably been told this numerous times by now, but you want to ensure that your bullet points follow the “STAR” format (situation, task, action, result). This will not only help you structure your answers, but it will make the recruiter’s life a lot easier in understanding what you exactly did on the job and what key skill you extracted from it. If possible, always quantify any results of certain tasks you performed and share success stories!
Gardner? Cashier? Painter? No problem!
Many students are afraid to include certain positions they have held in their careers because they feel like it will downplay their chances of getting selected by top accounting firms. Speaking in behalf of PwC, we do not care about the “title” of your job. We care more about what you got out of it!
I know several students who have landed interviews at PwC that have only held jobs as city landscapers, cashiers and even bartenders. Think about these three positions for a moment. What do they all have in common? I will give you a hint, it is the main driver of PwC’s business. Clients! People!Whenever possible, always tie your experience to how you catered to client needs and how you worked with people! Did you increase the efficiency of serving drinks to your customers as a bartender, which resulted in greater profits for the restaurant? Or did you work with your team members on a daily basis to ensure that the city’s landscaping objectives were met ahead of schedule?
So remember, include any related work experience on your resume that can attest to the fact that you have dealt with either working in teams, leading a team or catering to client’s/customer’s needs. If you have no work experience, no problem! As long as you have extra-curricular experience that can support to any of the three characteristics above, you are good to go!
Resumes are boring without a personality
In my opinion, a resume is probably the more boring document when compared to the cover letter. How can you add a little bit of “umph” to yours? Try these tricks:
- Use illustrative/captivating vocabulary in your resume (ie- instead of saying “dealt with customers on a daily basis”... write “passionately dealt with customers on a daily basis”)
- Have an “interests” section as this showcases a bit of personality
- Sell yourself. Through your experience, demonstrate what makes you unique!